Is dental health really that important with diabetes?

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Dental health is extremely important for anyone with diabetes. Diabetes increases the chance of infections in the body. That's why your diabetes doctor reminds you to check your skin and feet for any possible infections and also see your dentist regularly.

A person with diabetes should care for their mouth by first controlling their diabetes. People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease because of the high levels of glucose, or blood sugar, in the body. Controlling your blood sugar levels helps prevent oral health problems. Make sure to have your triglycerides and cholesterol levels checked by your doctor on a regular basis. Maintain good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily and getting regular dental checkups.

William Lee Dubois
Endocrinologist

Getting your teeth cleaned twice a year will do more to lower your blood sugar than any of our diabetes pills. Yep. It matters that much. Getting a gum infection creates a low-grade drain on the system that kicks your blood sugar up every minute of every day.

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Diabetes Warrior: Be your own knight in shining armor. How to stay healthy and happy with diabetes.

You survived the first year: now there is more to learn... Knights? Dragons? Diabetes?! Yep, armed with a wickedly sharp sense of humor and a medieval metaphor, Taming the Tiger author William Lee...
Carol Jahn
Dentist

Good oral health is very important for people with diabetes. Studies have shown that gum disease can make it harder to control your blood sugar and can contribute to the worsening of kidney or heart complications. Taking control of your oral health is two-fold. First, establish a relationship with a dental practice and see them regularly for cleanings and exams. Second, practice good dental hygiene daily at home. One product that has been tested and found to help people with diabetes improve their gum health is a Water Flosser. Added to tooth brushing, it is an easy and effective alternative to string floss.

Bacteria, especially those that thrive in the mouth, love sweets. And when you have high glucose levels, your saliva makes your mouth an inviting home for the bacteria that cause gum infections and disease. Having diabetes further complicates matters because it’s harder for your body to fight off infections once they start. To prevent gum disease:

  • Have your teeth cleaned and checked by the dentist at least every 6 months.
  • Brush at least twice a day to fight plaque. Use a soft nylon brush with rounded ends on the bristles. Tilt the bristles at about a 45-degree angle against the gum line and brush gently in a scrubbing motion. Brush front and back and also brush the chewing surfaces.
  • Brush the rough upper surface of your tongue.
  • Use dental floss once a day to remove bacteria from between your teeth. Special floss holders and various types of floss are available to make flossing easier.

Call your dentist if you find: your gums bleed when you brush or eat; your gums are red, swollen or tender; your gums have pulled away from your teeth; pus appears between your teeth and gums when the gums are touched; any change in the way dentures or partial plates fit; any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite; persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.

Gary Scheiner
Endocrinologist

Dental health is even more important if you have diabetes. Gum disease (periodontitis) develops and progresses more rapidly in people with diabetes. And the reverse also happens: oral infections contribute to elevations in blood glucose levels.

I recommend that anyone with diabetes visit their dentist at least 4 times annually for a thorough cleaning and check-up, in addition to practicing proper dental care at home.

Continue Learning about Diabetes and Oral Health

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.